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Selected Quotes from the Legislative Process

Jun 23, 2011

Much was said by many about Bill 47 and both the need and support for accessibility-rights legislation over the 11 short days between First Reading on June 1, 2011 and the Bill becoming law on June 16, 2011. Barrier-Free Manitoba has assembled selected quotes from the public record of the discussion and debate.

The selections start with Minister Howards introductory comments when she introduced Bill 47 in the Legislature and conclude with the Honourable Jon Gerrard's expression of very strong support for the next steps forward as part of Third Reading. You can download these as Word or pdf documents. The full transcipts of the Standing Committee hearing is also available posted on the Legislative Assembly web site at:

First Reading – June 1, 2011

“This bill represents the next step on our journey towards becoming a fully accessible province. It is by no means the destination or the end of that journey.”

“I want to thank all the people who've worked very hard to get us to this point, some of which are in the gallery today, folks who are from Barrier-Free Manitoba who I know will continue to push us to go farther and to go faster, and we welcome that intervention into the policy-making process.”

Honourable Jennifer Howard

Legislative Debate / Discussion – June 7, 2011

“[I]t (the Manitoba Human Rights Commission) is there to receive the problems that Manitobans with disabilities come across in their everyday life because they have been denied access, because they have been dealt with unfairly, because they have been dealt with illegally. Is it really the best way to move ahead by waiting for a complaint to come in the door? Is that the best we can do as a community? I think not. I think we have to be more proactive. We have to go out there, all of us, collectively, and look for those shortcomings in our establishments, and in our attitudes and our programs and in our materials. Look to discover where we can make improvements to ensure accessibility in its true sense.”

“So this legislation is an absolute critical step, not only because it establishes the process that is required and, as again I say, is informed by what Ontario went through. But the legislation signals that here we come in this province, as well. That we will not be left behind when it comes to moving ahead, proactively, to ensure accessibility for all Manitobans. It sends a clear signal that we will not sit around and wait for complaints to be received and dealt with by human–the Human Rights Commission. As good as they are, we recognize that we have to do this systemically and together.”

Honourable Gord Mackintosh

Human Resources Standing Committee Hearing – June 13, 2011

“The law should–the bill, we would recommend, should indicate that there needs to be a timeline within which the province should become fully accessible. If you don't want to predetermine that now–Ontarians gave themselves 20 years, but you could ask the advisory committee to come back with a figure. That timeline, that deadline in our legislation is one–is a very important part of what makes it work and lets people not put things off indefinitely or, at least, if they try to, lets us raise that with them.”

“[I]f you're wanting to locate a conference, an international conference in a city, you've got a lot of money to spend, and you want to go to a city that's got the infrastructure that will be able to accommodate conference attendees with disabilities. Any city that does not have the infrastructure, the public transit, the accessible restaurants and places for entertainment is going to be an extremely unattractive destination, so–which is why it's very important for the benefit of tourism in your community to provide accessibility.”

Mr. David Lepofsky (Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance)

"I have seen reports before, and have participated in discussions on this matter for a long time. I was around for the full citizenship paper in 2001, I was here for the federal government's advancing inclusion, and I was here for the Opening Doors paper in 2009. To be frank, and I say this with the most respect, I have heard enough talk; enough of the white paper, yellow paper, red paper, on the positive impacts of accessible legislation and practice in Manitoba. The time for community and government to act is now. No one in this room wants to see another report put on the shelf. We are at the bridge; let's cross over and get this thing done."

Ms. Terry McIntosh (Private Citizen)

“Attitudes are, by far, the most powerful barrier that exists for vulnerable adults. Attitudes of inequality and disrespect breed the creation and sustaining of all other barriers. When people are perceived as less valuable, it results in exclusion and isolation. An attitude of inequality results in people being relegated to back doors in order to enter a building; it results in people not being considered for employment, resulting in poverty; having a poor quality of education, resulting in fewer skills and a weak voice; living in unsafe and inaccessible homes, resulting in harm.

Attitudes of inequality result in people being denied access to services, including medical treatment, transportation, and even something as simple as recreational activities. We even see people being denied access to live in the community of their choosing because of attitudes which focus on differences, breeding fear and intolerance.“

“Continuing on the current path of striving for accessibility ramp by ramp rather than through systemic reform exhausts the resources of persons with disabilities and eats away at the stamina that would be better used to be active, contributing members of the community. We need an avenue for people to have their rights realized that does not require each person to take up their own battle one issue at a time. We need the Province to set and enforce basic standards of accessibility which eliminate barriers and stop the creation of new ones.

Abilities Manitoba sees a need for timelines and target dates in any accessibility legislation. We believe this will not only send a message of commitment to people with disabilities but will also provide for accountability on the part of those who need to eliminate barriers and prevent the creation of new ones.“

“We have laws that assure everyone has rights, and yet, every day these rights are violated. Bill 47 is a step forward for the Province of Manitoba to take a leadership role in stating the expectation of respect and equality for all citizens of Manitoba. Setting a tone of acceptance, belonging and the expectation of accessibility will impact the attitudes that currently create and sustain the presence of barriers. Our society needs to provide ways for people to access their communities so that they can be contributors, not just consumers. Doing the right thing begins with an attitude of respect and a perspective of equality, followed up with action that provides for meaningful change.”

Ms. Jeannette DeLong (Abilities Manitoba)

“While we commend the government for bringing forth Bill 47 and restate our support for it, we would like to end our presentation with the reminder that this has been a topic of discussion at policy tables for more than a decade now. The length of time that this drive for comprehensive legislation and policies has taken is sometimes discouraging. We hope that all legislators in the House will do their utmost to energize the process and quickly move us to the day when all Manitobans will be free from accessibility barriers.”

Mr. Kevin Rebeck (Manitoba Federation of Labour)

“All that said, what is the government–what's the role the government's to take? In my view and based on my understanding of human nature and behaviour change, I believe government needs to set the standard for accessibility for its citizens. I would hope that a prosperous Manitoba with its long history of measured, thoughtful governments, that tend to take a collective and socially responsible view of the world, for example, medicare, would take action to ensure that our province is on the forefront of human rights.”

Ms. Jennifer Frain (New Directions for Children, Youth, Adults and Families)

“I'm totally in favour of the bill. I think it's time that we have started the process. And that's what this act does, I believe, or the bill does, as it starts the process towards–I'm not going to say fully accessible Manitoba by any date because, frankly, I don't believe Ontario will be fully accessible by 2020. Just because they have legislation, there's a whole bunch of issues around that. I'm not going to speak to those, but I think that Bill 47, in setting up a committee in the way it has, which sets out a process to figure out how to deal with and remove these barriers that create disabling situations for persons like myself–and I like some of the language that I hear in the bill, and I think it's a very positive way to look at it.”

“I wanted to mention, as well, that we should make sure, when we create these pieces of standards, that we also put a women's lens to it, because women with disabilities actually face a more vulnerable position. I'll give you an example. I'm a blind person and I walk down the street in the evening. I'm a man and I walk very confidently. I am not threatened as much as a woman who is blind walking by herself at nighttime on a street, and that's because she's more vulnerable.”

Mr. Ross Eadie (Private Citizen)

“I'm very glad that the disability community has a real hunger for change. I would like to see the governing party and the opposition parties, as well, have some of that same hunger for change. I really do feel this is a good beginning, but I feel it needs to be 'priorized' and well resourced. I hope the council we meet–will meet often and late, maybe not till midnight, but late and often, and that they have the technical resources to support the kind of work that needs to be done because there's an immense amount of work to be done in developing standards together with other sectors in society that will be–will have the support of our population and will move us forward.”

Dr. Jim Derksen (Private Citizen)

“I really, really strongly urge the committee to have a good composition of members so that all of the disabilities in the community are represented. And I think we also need somebody from the seniors community, or at least two people from the seniors community on the committee. So I don't–I know I'm adding more people, but there are a lot of different disabilities out there, and I'd like to see them represented.”

Ms. Laurie Helgason (Private Citizen)

“I'm here today to seek a rebalancing of the rights accorded to Manitobans with disabilities. I'm here to challenge all MLAs, and I was pleased to hear the comment that this might be a non-partisan issue, challenge all MLAs and all parties to create and articulate a vision for Manitoba that's big enough, that's rich enough to embrace Manitobans of all abilities and to proactively do those things necessary to make this vision a reality within my lifetime.”

“[Y]ou have the opportunity to create and implement a vision for Manitoba. You have the opportunity to demonstrate leadership. You have an opportunity to honour Canada's commitment to the UN Convention on the rights of people with disabilities, to do so with action and not with words.”

Mr. David Steen (Private Citizen)

“So this legislation is a first step, and I commend you guys on taking this first step. And, as a person of youth, I hope that more future steps will be taken so that those who are born with disabilities or who receive impairments early in life can enjoy their youth to their full potential, and, definitely, sports was one of them.”

Mr. Sam Unrau (Private Citizen)

“[M]ost people have agreed that this bill is a step, although in some people's minds a very small step, in the right direction, and I think that we all would agree that we need to be moving forward with accessibility legislation in our province.”

Mrs. Bonnie Mitchelson (Standing Committee Member)

Debate on Third Reading – June 16, 2011

“I just want to rise to indicate very strong support for a more accessible Manitoba. I recognize that this is one step in that direction and that much, much more needs to be done.”

Honourable Jon Gerrard

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